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updated: 7/5/2011 12:22 PM

Bad UP crossing, old but feisty transponders and tollway warning tickets

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  • Don't blow past those stop signs at unattended toll collection booths, even if you have an I-PASS.

    Don't blow past those stop signs at unattended toll collection booths, even if you have an I-PASS.
    Daily Herald file photo


By Marni Pyke

On a day we celebrated our independence, I celebrated dependency.

On you, of course. I don't know how I'd survive without In Transit nation. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, for criticizing, for offering suggestions, and for making me laugh.

I'm continually amazed by how much knowledge is out there and how civil In Transit readers are. The comments on my column and transportation articles are the best.

So as a thank you, I'll be answering readers' questions today, and I've got another treat coming.

Not a cheap trick

This is the season of the summer road trip, and what's a road trip without good tunes? I'll admit my guilty pleasure is Cheap Trick's "Surrender," although I always end up speeding when it comes on. I'm sure you've got one too.

So, I'm announcing the first Road Trip Song Contest. A panel of distinguished judges (not Simon Cowell) will pick the finalists, and then you can vote on the winner, who will receive a fabulous prize plus eternal fame.

Email your favorite to with the subject line "Road Trip." Along with the song, please include the musician and a short explanation of why it's the best road trip music ever.

Crossing blues

Reader Joan Haase of Des Plaines wants to know "if there are plans to repair the railroad crossings on Golf Road west of River Road, in Des Plaines?"

"The crossing is in horrible shape, potentially damaging to car tires, etc.," she writes.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Mark Davis said the crossing is on the schedule to be repaired. Work should be completed by late summer or early fall.

R.I.P. transponder

I-PASS user Dean Bladel of Glen Ellyn recently got a letter from the Illinois toll road stating his transponder battery was expected to expire soon and needed to be replaced.

That's "patently untrue since I have two of the older-model transponders -- when the battery is low I simply replace the battery," Bladel told me. The letter also said if he didn't swap the transponder by July 24 it would be deactivated and further use would result in violations.

When he called the customer center, Bladel "spoke to a pleasant person who essentially could not provide any additional information."

"At any rate, my transponders work just fine. I have never received any warnings, violations or fines over the entire time I have been an I-PASS user. There must be some other reason the Tollway is so adamant about replacing equipment that is fully functional," he said.

Tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis responds that the agency is contacting customers with old transponders that have reached or are nearing the end of their effective lives. "The vast majority of toll road customers have the current transponder model, which does not have batteries that can be replaced," she said.

The I-PASS Transponder Replacement Program helps customers swap out old transponders, McGinnis said. Eligible I-PASS customers are sent a letter with instructions on how to exchange their old transponders at a Tollway Customer Service Center or at any Jewel-Osco location.

"The older transponder model that your reader is referring to has a display and makes a beeping sound. The toll road estimates that the older model comprises about no more than 150,000 of the more than 4.1 million transponders in circulation. While some of our customers seem hesitant to return this older model, the toll road recommends that these older-model transponders be replaced for two important reasons:

• The older transponder model is no longer being manufactured and, therefore, is no longer certified by the manufacturer.

• Our testing has shown that the older transponder model does not perform as well as the new transponders on the new open road tolling system."

For more information, log onto,2692704&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL.

I-80 angst

Mark Lind of Algonquin asks, "A couple of weeks ago I got stuck in traffic on I-80 through Joliet. Do you know how long construction will be going in that area?"

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell answers that there are "two projects on I-80: widening from U.S. 45 to U.S. 30 and resurfacing from U.S. 30 to the Grundy County line. Late October is the tentative completion date on both.

"The aspect that is currently getting the most attention is lane reduction to work on bridges through Joliet," Tridgell said. "Those will be removed temporarily to accommodate holiday traffic this weekend before they are put back in place until mid-August."

Yes, stop means stop

Finally, a reader contacted me about laws concerning stopping at unmanned toll lanes. He was entering the toll road in Rockford and drove slowly through an unattended toll booth since he had an I-PASS. A police officer issued him a warning ticket.

I can relate, since there's a similar setup at my I-88 exit. And nearly everyone with an I-PASS rolls past the stop sign. (Does that include me? I plead the Fifth.)

State Police Capt. John Jesernik said, "If motorists observe a red stop sign at a toll plaza or other location on the toll road, they are to stop for their safety as well as the safety of others. It is a requirement to stop for a posted stop sign regardless of whether the driver needs to pay cash at the toll plaza or if they use I-PASS." He further explained that workers can out be tending to equipment in those lanes, which can be dangerous when drivers blow past signs.

Gridlock alert

Avoid Dundee Road and Route 53 in Palatine this week, if you can. IDOT crews will be repairing the Dundee Road bridge, and traffic will be one lane each way. Work starts Wednesday and continues through early September.

Coming soon

Hyper-miler Wayne Gerdes is a fuel-saving fanatic -- he actually got my Corolla to do 50 mpg once. He'll share his tricks at 7:30 p.m. July 26 at the Mount Prospect Library, 10 S. Emerson St.

You should know

It's now the William O. Lipinski federal building at 844 N. Rush St. The former railroad retirement building was renamed last week in honor of the former suburban congressman and longtime transportation committee power broker. Lipinski was a force behind funding for O'Hare International Airport and Metra back when we could count on Congress for infrastructure needs.